“Yeah, go on then, J-Dogg. Ready salted.”
“That’s dull. Not beefy, or prawn cocktail?”
“Truth is, I’m a dull person. Ready salted, all the way.”
“Fair do’s. What you drinking?”
“I’ll have a pint of bitter.”
“Bitter? It’s an old man’s drink! Why not a lager, or a cider?”
“Because with cider you go all wonky and when you sneeze you accidentally shit yourself, and lager makes me burp foam like a fire extinguisher. Bitter, please.”
“Huh. Anything else?”
“Yeah, do they do scratchings?”
“Ooh, pig bits! Good call! I’ll get two bags.”
J-Dogg went to the bar.
He’s my favourite bloke to go to the pub with.
We talk lots of shit.
What’s your favourite dinosaur.
Which is the hardest brand of crisp.
Which cartoon character would you most like to fuck.
You know the sort of thing.
I love pubs.
No surprise there.
Pubs are where the beer is, but I also like pub goers.
You get characters in pubs, you don’t get them in bars.
In bars, people want to be noticed.
In pubs, people want to be left alone.
The bloke next to J-Dogg at the bar was alone.
He wasn’t in the pub to find friends.
He was there to drink.
He was steadily sinking the pints and staring at the telly flickering in the corner.
I accidentally caught his eye.
I looked away.
Bit creepy, if I’m honest.
A packet of pork scratchings hit me in the face.
J-Dogg was back with the goods.
“Beer! pig bits! Sundry shit! Tuck in, motherfucker.”
“Cheers, J-Dogg. Hey, check out the Vietnam vet at the bar. He’s got the scariest thousand yard stare you’ve ever seen!”
“Huh? Oh, him! That’s Tommo. He’s harmless, but he’s all fucked up.”
“Fucked up? In what way?”
J-Dogg giggled and lowered his voice.
“I went to school with Tommo. He wasn’t the brightest of kids. When we were fifteen we all got sent to different places on work experience…”
“Where did you go?”
“I got work experience as a sparky. That’s why I’m a sparky. Anyway, that’s not important. Tommo got work experience at a welding shop. When I came back from working with the sparky, I was dead keen to become a sparky. When Tommo came back from the welders, he was dead quiet.”
I looked across at the bloke at the bar.
He’d killed another pint and was ordering more.
Same dead expression.
J-Dogg kept talking.
“Well, one lunchtime he just came up to me, said he had to tell someone and that he wanted to tell me, ’cause we were friends.”
“Were you friends?”
“Nah, but I took piss out of Tommo less than the other lads, so I suppose that might have made me a friend in his eyes. Anyway, he gushes out his story. He’d gone to that welding shop on work experience. They all worked on these long benches, welding shit all day. At lunch everyone fucked off to the pub, but Tommo didn’t have any money so he ate his packed lunch at the bench. One of the welders had a packed lunch too. Tommo said this welder was a big biker, shaved head, tattoos, beard, but he was friendly enough. He got chatting to Tommo about this and that, and Tommo told him that he was in the scouts. The biker starts going on about how scouts can tie knots, but that there wasn’t a knot he couldn’t escape from. The biker gets Tommo to tie his hands, and in a flash he was free! Tommo tied him again, with a really complicated knot this time, but the biker got loose just as fast. Tommo asked him how it was done, so the biker offered to show him. He ties Tommo’s hands, and then ties his wrists to his ankles. Tommo realises he can’t get free, and in his own words, ‘I struggled, but he pulled down my trousers and pants, and before I knew it, he were inside me!”
I choked on my beer.
“Fucking Hell! The biker bummed him?”
“Not so loud! Yeah, he bummed the shit out of him. Right there in the welding shop. When he finished he let Tommo go, but said he’d find him and kill him if he said anything.”
“Poor bastard! He told you all this?”
“Yeah. He were snivelling and blubbing as he told me. Said that I was the only person that knew. He said that he had to tell somebody, get it off his chest, like.”
“No bloody wonder. What did you do?”
J-Dogg took a long pull on his pint.
“I told every fucker in the school what had happened. I couldn’t help it! A story like that is too juicy to keep to yourself!”
“You rotten fucker.”
“Fuck off, Lucifer! It’s not my fault he went and got bummed! If anyone’s to blame he ought to blame himself!”
“How’s that work then? He’s the victim in all this.”
“Bollocks. He shouldn’t have been so fucking stupid as to let some hairy arsed Hell’s Angel tie him up with his ringpiece pointing to the heavens. You let a bloke do that to you, then you deserve everything you get.”
“A good hard arse raping? He deserved it? Look at him! That bloke at the bar is a fucking wreck!”
We looked at Tommo.
He was blank faced, his eyes were blood shot, he was unshaven.
A sudden look of horror flashed across his face.
“Shit,” muttered J-Dogg, “Drink up, Lucifer. We’re off to the next pub.”
“What’s happening? What’s up with him?”
J-Dogg nodded at the television, where Tommo was staring with growing horror.
A show was just starting.
It was the Hairy Bikers Cookbook.
“Christ, let’s get out of here before he goes into melt down!”
We left our beers and hurried outside, grateful for the wind and rain.
Anything was better than the sound of a bloke alone in a pub, sobbing into his pint.
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